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Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Note on this Year’s Primary

posted by on August 23 at 10:53 AM

Who knew? Seattle voters are smart! (At least the 24% of you who took the time to mark your ballots and vote.)

Check it out: In the Port race, rather than mindlessly reacting to all the scandals with a knee-jerk “Throw the Bums Out” backlash, voters went with the reformist challenger in one race by giving Gael Tarleton 32% and incumbent Bob Edwards 28% (an amazing feat for an unknown against an incumbent), but they stuck with the incumbent in the other race, giving Alec Fisken 44% to main challenger Bill Bryant’s 29%.

Incumbent Edwards, of course, was implicated in the recent Mic Dinsmore retirement package scandal and is associated with the status quo, getting bank from corporate Port customers. And so, it makes sense for voters to lean toward Tarleton.

The other incumbent, Fisken, is a noisy in-house refromer, while his opponent is a Republican with big business backing. And so, it made sense that voters stuck with Fisken—who was not implicated in the recent scandal.

I had been worried that Fisken would simply eat it in the uproar over the Port scandals, but it appears as if voters were able to parse the issues. We’ll see if that holds in the general between Fisken and Bryant. Given Bryant’s constituency he raised a lot more money for the primary (Fisken has a lot more donors, but a lot less cash)—and so Bryant may be able to make something out of the anti-incumbent mood just yet.

This trend didn’t play out, however, in the school board races, where a perfectly fit incumbent, Darlene Flynn (who’s actually good on the issues that plague the district like budgeting), had a tough time making it through the primary; meanwhile her main challenger, Sherry Carr, came out far ahead: 40 to 27.

Why weren’t voters as nuanced here? Probably because Carr is one of this year’s more impressive candidates in any of the races for any position. We stuck with Flynn in our endorsements because Carr, while impressive in her own right, didn’t make the case against Flynn—who we think is the best board member. We also want some continuity. (Find our school board endorsements, among others, here.)

I kinda wish Carr was running for something else like city council, where the candidates this year don’t match the intensity and urgency of the big issues currently confronting our city.

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Seattle voters may be smart, but why did a surprising 19% of them vote for a candidate with no website or active campaign to speak of and a completely vague, useless statement in the voter pamphlet? (i.e. Catherine Perkins for Port Comm No. 5)

Posted by tsm | August 23, 2007 11:05 AM

Guys, I love you, but Darlene Flynn is really, really bad. I won't leave it to that, I promise to get you a list a reasons. Pending.....

Posted by OHHAI | August 23, 2007 11:17 AM

Fisken is in trouble.

The miniscule primary turnout is stacked with aware, active Democrats know who's who and who endorsed who, and who understand that Alec is the aware, active reformist choice. He still polled under 50.

The general election will bring out more Perkins voters (who are they?), but the won't find Perkins on the menu.

It'll bring out throw-em'-all-out voters.

And it'll bring out more of the impulse voters a campaign with more money can influence.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 23, 2007 11:53 AM

Alec is not in trouble. Stop trying to make people live in Fear.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 23, 2007 12:01 PM

The Perkins voters may have been the "don't know who's running so I'll choose a woman" crowd. That won't be an option in the general.

Posted by N in Seattle | August 23, 2007 12:05 PM

Alec Fisken's 42 percent was a pretty good number considering the efforts by the establishment to dump him (and the 20 percent Perkins vote by people merely checking the female name on the ballot). Alec's vote puts him a bit below the incumbent safe zone, but Bill Bryant's 30 percent was not impressive, considering his money lead on Alec. Fisken isn't safe, but he on pace to win re-election.

Posted by J.R. | August 23, 2007 12:12 PM

Big trouble.

Even bigger trouble if he listens to denialists as per comments above.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 23, 2007 12:22 PM

oh, stfu, RonK. We Seattleites refuse to live in Fear!

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 23, 2007 1:26 PM

OK, fine, dwell in, uh, whatever.

Pat Davis hit darn near the same number in a 2005 primary with about twice the turnout, a better set of drawing cards, and no generalized anti-incumbent vibe. She pulled out a thin win in Novemeber.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 23, 2007 1:56 PM

The Port needs a thorn - smart, vocal thorn, with some common sense and fiscal integrity.

It is Fisken. All of Seattle knows that.

Go Alec.

Josh did not mention the real race, cause the Stranger horse stumbled and died on the track last night, Scully.

KingCo prosecuting attorney will be the slug fest to watch as the Dems. unabashedly try to take that office for the first time in decades.

Beaucoup of attorney money on both sides, the war of the mega funders ... why no comment, Josh? Your horse is dead.

Posted by Essex | August 23, 2007 2:04 PM

RonK is accurate in that Fisken's number isn't as good as it should have been.

I think it would have been better if any real money had been spent on the primary, which I don't think happened because they'll need every nickel available against Bryant.

But then that means those who give a damn about how the Seattle Port Commission is run will have to actually volunteer time and perhaps a little cash to get the word out, eh?

Just sayin'.

Posted by palamedes | August 23, 2007 4:11 PM

Let's also note that Pat Davis 2005 had a nice bankroll, plus "Citizens for a Healthy Economy", plus a sheaf of establishment Dem endorsements.

Don't live in fear, Seattle ... get up and do your stuff!

Posted by RonK, Seattle | August 23, 2007 6:46 PM

If Carr didn't "make the case against Flynn" adequately for you, it's either because she's high road and running on her own merits, or she thought you already knew all the stuff that makes Darlene very much not a "perfectly fit candidate" - though you must not and if OHHAI @ 2 doesn't give you a list, I will (more than I have already).

If it's continuity you want, we have 3 of 7 members for another 2 years and at least 2 of them come with lots of smarts and no drama. Plus Carr has probably spent as many clock hours on district issues as Darlene has (her work on the select Superintendent's advisory committee and her city-wide PTA leadership) - and likely more substantive analysis on many of the financial issues.

Note - it's not budget issues that plague the district, Josh, it's funding issues (though those end up translating to budget issues when you can't fund your operations and have to ration what you do get.

Posted by rational_momster | August 23, 2007 10:35 PM

mic Dinsmore and the "Foxy Lady" who enlisted bryant and are raising funds for him to defeat Alec, who got under Mic's skin. I spent a long afternoon at the last Port Commission meeting, Tuesday a week ago, and at the end, when the ethics issue on the agenda came up for a first reading, managed to articulate the matters that are in my op-ed. [further down] four of the commissioners themselves really like it, but as Alec told me, neither paper will run it, proving my optimism to be its usual blind fool].

The session was interesting for the following matters:

The over all excellent presentations by Port Staff.

Lloyd Hara's excellent probing of their reasoning for their decisions, made or forthcoming.
Edward's and Creighton did good work too. Alec was on vacation. Pat Davis is on a 'is that the port's business' kick.

Tay Yoshitami's low-key approach, and excellence in finessing the question [Pat Davis] of "shouldn't we first all have a knock out drag out possibly retreat type session on the future direction of the port now that all major projects are either completed, near completed or finalized, before we start discussing the priorities of the budget, taxation etc. " He said, in nuce, no the budgeting process must go forward, and the first reading will be as scheduled, which in no way keeps you, the commissioners, from... which i welcome and would be glad to participate in. And then we can combine your up to date thinking at the first reading.

The only reporter there, from the PI, all prettied up to the nines, with calved on size too thick, cutting out early prior to the interchange between Tay and the Commissioners; and the discussion of the ethics amendment, which will have a second reading, that is the considerable heat that threatened to erupt in the late afternoon was postponed to early September [the 11th I think, maybe] . Thus her report the next day in the PI is just a bunch of figures, for which she didn't even need to show up. So much for reporting in this city. Or anywhere or anytime just about that I've been at an event that has been reported upon.

Bob Edwards then came up to me to thank me for some of my sendings, and he took two hours off from his campaign and we relaxed outside in the setting sun outside pier 69, and I found him one of the nicest person i have met in Seattle in these 14 years, home schooled daughter in the air force academy, a good listener to my adventurous stories, saying no he didn't feel that he had been a rubber stamp for Mic, allowed how that payment issue had upset him, too; but I guess he has a different style from Alec; and the sometimes passionate Creighton seem to think that anyone but Bob is what he wants. So there are tensions in a totally underpaid and staffed commission.

Creighton couldn't get Bryant to talk to me, even though that had been his idea. I set up a meeting with Gail Tarleton, whose CIA type background, huge amount of out of state money from a big sinister outfit gives me the willies.


I became involved in Port of Seattle matters during the 2005 election as supporter of a candidate whom his firm then forced to withdraw when it prohibited all employees from holding public office. Meanwhile, I've made pleasant and more or less thorough acquaintance with the various commissioners and the CEO preceding the ascendancy of Tay Yoshitani; and with the by no means uncomplicated issues facing the port in the world such as it is - ah, yes, "the world such as it is!" As the child of a father who ran a fishing fleet I have always found ports sexy, and I think, perhaps mistakenly, that my take on the Port is benign and not colored by immediate self-interest.

In light of these considerations, I am wondering whether the Seattle Port Commission, a kind of board of Alderman, is still able to do the job for which it was designed. Something certainly is quite puzzling, if not amiss, about the way it is currently set up. Judging by the 100s of thousands invested in the last and current commissioner campaign you would assume these offices to be worth more than 6 k per annum. What is really at stake? Not only does the job pay a pittance, commissioners who take their jobs seriously, lacking support staff or a budget for over- and insight, will - on top of whatever other job they have - spend many many hours at slave labor wages poring over contracts and the like; something only millionaires and the retired can afford - unless civic minded beyond the call of duty. The Port C.E.O., knowing of the comparative ignorance of the commissioners, has little choice but to want them to be compliant. However, under these circumstances the commissioners would seem to be easily beholden to the businesses with interests before the Port, which pour such large sums into these elections; certainly not entirely unselfishly I don't think.

The commissioners only perk are much derided junkets to air and sea port related cities where you can either have a good time or, once again, take your job seriously,as some do; that is, you can get yourself a translator and, say, haunt the docks; certainly a good thing to get out of Seattle to get an other than rain-drenched p.o.v.!

Thus I ask myself, ought not the commissioners, when their supporters' contractual interests come before the P.O.S., recuse themselves, as one candidate with multiple interest already promises to do? If the answer is yes, would the commission still be a functioning entity?

But what if it were an appointed commission of specialists in the various areas that the P.O.S. touches, and if such a commission were sufficiently funded and staffed, might it not do a far better job? And work far more cohesively with the executive? That certainly is the case at other Ports that also run their affairs far more efficiently per cargo ton.

The second matter of ethics that I find odd is that the previous Port CEO promised to raise money to defeat the re-election of a sitting commissioner, as in the 2005 election he had campaigned for the re-election of a different commissioner. Ought the Port C.E.O. be permitted political activity; no matter how justified it may seem to him from the point of view of running the Port? The commissioners themselves also take action to support or defeat each other. Not the sort of thing that is needed I don't think in this instance. It strikes me as though the commission is about to implode.

Taking a less than Seattle-centric p.o.v., I also feel that a regional or perhaps state-wide perspective ought be taken. The age-old {!} competition between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle makes little sense; together they could draw far better contracts with the big stevedoring and shipping companies. Taking the ports of Everett and Olympia, and the birth place of grunge, Grey's Harbor, into state-wide consideration might even make better sense.

Posted by michael roloff | August 24, 2007 8:09 AM

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